Migrants march in downtown Toronto, demand permanent residency rights

Sep 21, 2023 | Canadian News, News

Migrant protestors and many Canadian supporters filled Toronto streets on Sunday urging the federal government to honour its promise to ensure permanent residence access.

Protestors are calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to fulfill his 2021 promise of ensuring permanent residence access to all migrants, documented or not.

Organized by the Migrants Rights Network, the march kicked off at Bloor and Yonge Streets, eventually making its way toward City Hall.

A participant from the Migrants Worker Alliance for Change (MWAC), Jane, who didn’t want to share her last name, told Humber Et Cetera she joined the protest because she had been abused at work.

“I have been mistreated at work, I have been pushed, one of my clients spat on me. I have been called names because of my colour,” she said.

Jane said she couldn’t find other work because she was undocumented.

Three people hold a banner reading "NO DISPLACEMENT, STATUS FOR ALL, STATUS NOW"

Protesters hold a banner demanding status for workers and students in Canada without legal status. Photo credit: Liam Neilson

She said that it goes back to Trudeau keeping his promise so that people like her have the choice to find jobs in better situations, where they are treated justly and as equals.

Sarom Rho, an organizer from MWAC, says migrant workers will continue to face struggles as long as access to permanent residence is withheld.

“Every day of delay means migrant and undocumented people are exploited at work, denied access to life-saving healthcare, and live in daily fear and pain from deportations and family separations,” Rho said.

“Every year there are hundreds of thousands of people coming to Canada on temporary work and study permits, including international students. The largest cohort of non-permanent residents of migrants in this country are current and former international students,” she said.

Rho said international students make up such a large percentage of migrants coming to Canada and pay significantly higher fees in tuition than domestic students, often three to four times more.

Despite this, international students have a cap on the number of hours they can work weekly off campus due to their lack of permanent residence status.

“What ends up happening is that many are forced to work for cash, and that means they’re pushed into more dangerous jobs where employers will exploit them,” Rho said.

City Councilwoman Alejandra Bravo addresses crowd

Toronto Ward 9 Councillor Alejandra Bravo addresses the crowd during the Status For All demonstration in Toronto during the weekend. Photo credit: Liam Neilson

Toronto Ward 9-Davenport Councillor Alejandra Bravo supported and advocated for the rallying migrants.

“Post-secondary institutions are largely funded by the tuition of international students, who are being lured with promises that there is a road to permanent residency and find themselves often exploited by landlords, employers, even while they’re studying,” Bravo said.

“We need for them to fairly be able to work, regularization is a critical piece. Without it, we’re just saying here, take advantage of them and I don’t want to live in a society like that,” she said.

Similar protests organized under the Migrants Rights Network were held in 14 Canadian cities on the same day. About 3,000 people marched in Toronto.